With new headsets, including one from Samsung, being announced recently, Mixed Reality is poised to bring virtual reality experiences to a larger audience. The upcoming Windows 10 creators update will bring with it support for mixed reality headsets and the revamped EdgeHTML16. This means that VR support will be added to Microsoft Edge via WebVR frameworks. A-Frame, BabylonJS, ReactVR, and three.js will have Windows Mixed Reality support added – with different functionality for each.
BabylonJS and A-Frame will be the most all-encompassing and will allow for motion controllers alongside WebGL context switching and an immersive view. ReactVR and three.js will support immersive view and WebGL, but won’t support motion controllers – making them more suited for things like video content playback than game playing. Developers will be able to integrate the motion controllers to do whatever they want – so in theory, things like running through a video quickly to get to just the parts you want to see should be possible in a way that goes beyond the simple timeline bar on the bottom of a video feed.
A gamepad API will allow a site to interact with the controllers, and third party middleware integration will be used to allow for as many quality of life improvements as possible. The goal is to allow for accurate renderings of the controllers within the headset while also mapping buttons to action and allowing for real-time manipulation of the virtual headseat buttons as well. This allows users to get a more visual idea of where things are in the real world as they move things in the virtual world and should help eliminate some of the bewilderment that comes out of ending a VR session and being a bit surprised to see your exact positioning.
One of the most promising parts about the WebVR experience is that the goal is to have it support as many Mixed Reality PCs as possible. This is outstanding because even if this likely means that lower-spec units may not work as well for gaming applications, they should all be able to work fine for any kind of video playable. Edge is going to be optimized to work with laptop and desktop hardware – including devices with multiple graphics cards. One caveat is that support can only work if developers themselves are using the most up to date versions of the WebVR framework. If they aren’t, then end users will be more restricted with the devices that can make use of the technology.
Edge will be the first browser to be able to use VR and also allow you to view regular 2D sites, manage your favorites and tabs, and essentially allow you to do everything you could normally do in a browser – only with VR. On a practical level though, doing all of your regular at-home work like e-mail and research using a mixed reality headset isn’t the best option. Eye strain and eye fatigue can enter into things after about 20 or so minutes – so it wouldn’t be wise to use one with your most-important tasks for very long. As an experiment to try out, I can see writing a few longer e-mails or watching a movie with it just to see how it is – but I can’t fathom it being a part of most people’s everyday routine.
The idea behind web browsing in VR is exciting and can really make people more efficient if they need to focus on a task. If you find yourself going from one tab to the other far too frequently and getting too little done, maybe having the tasks visible in VR will help the tasks crystalize and make you focus on things more. In hte long run, this could be a big boon for becoming more productive – but there’s no guarantee of that unless you are wired to be productive to begin with. Microsoft seems to be going all-in with mixed reality and the next couple of years will be an interesting time for the headsets.
They do require a fair amount of power to work – so people who stick with buying the lowest-quality devices won’t be able to make use of it. It’s a shame too since some of the users who typically go for those devices – like older users, could benefit a lot from the VR headsets and their ability to help people with the more social aspects of things like AltSpaceVR and its virtual meeting grounds. Hopefully, with headsets starting at the $300 range, the mixed reality version of VR allows it to expand in the PC market. The higher-end headsets have defintiely been revolutionary, but their high cost is going to limit the growth of the technology. Having the core tech available, but scaling for pricing, is perfect. It’s very much like buying a PC – you can get one that will do a job for very little money, or you can spend more and get something that is more versatile over the short and long-term.
By opening the floodgates for the core devices being priced at a lower point, it means more people can try it out and possibly have their lives improved by it. Introducing computers to lower-income families allows them to better their lives simply by having more access to a means to do research easily, apply for better jobs, or even earn money on the side that simply can’t be done in traditional person-to-person ways. VR being available to as many people as possible could help people cope with social anxiety issues and allow them to better themselves in the process. It can also provide an easier means of communication for people who are naturally more shy and may need some help to come out of their shells and open up. VR has a lot of untapped potential, and we’re seeing some of that finally get tapped into with the sheer variety of headsets and their usage in just online applications – meaning that the future is quite bright for the technology as a whole, even if some headsets inevitably fall by the wayside due to having so many on the market.
Source: Windows Blog